VIDEO: The Easy and Inexpensive Way For Cincinnati To Make Its Streets Safer

Anyone who rides a bicycle to work, either their own or on a Cincy Red Bike, knows all to well the commute mostly involves sharing the road with automobiles. With the current city administration focusing more on creating recreational trails for bicycle hobbyists, cyclists who bike as a form of transportation can only daydream about better on-street bicycle infrastructure.

That daydream could come closer to reality with the release of a new animation from planner and author Jeff Speck.

An accomplished author of books such as Walkable City and Suburban Nation, Speck describes four simple street reconfiguration options that would better accommodate all modes of transportation without adding to the roadway’s width. In order to accomplish that, the techniques include narrowing lanes, adding striped or buffered bike lanes.

Planners and engineers have found that such changes have a minimal impact on the flow of vehicular traffic, by adding only seconds onto commute times.

The street in the video is 38 to 40 feet in width, which is just about the average width of many streets throughout Cincinnati. In fact, UrbanCincy proposed a similar reconfiguration of Elm Street through the Central Business District in 2013. Such transformations have been noted to positively impact safety.

“Such a change on Prospect Park West in Brooklyn reduced speeding by 77% and reduced injury crashes by 63%, while having no impact on car volume or travel times,” Speck noted in the video.

When Randy Simes first wrote about the Elm Street reconfiguration, he explained that it would also serve as a critical connection point between the protected bike lane on Central Parkway and the Ohio River Trail. While Elm Street is a particularly obvious choice, other streets throughout the city could and should get some of the same treatment.

One another prominent example is Liberty Street, which Cincinnati’s Department of Transportation & Engineering has been looking at for years as a potential road diet candidate. Originally designed for much higher traffic volumes that were never realized, Liberty Street’s 70-foot width now functions more as a safety issue for people walking or biking, and as a barrier between the northern and southern portions of Over-the-Rhine.

Those plans for Liberty Street were originally envisioned by the Over-the-Rhine Brewery District, which then convinced City Hall to perform some planning work. At this time, however, the project does not appear to be moving forward.

Speck’s video makes it easy to see that for the cost of paint it would be relatively easy to install a more comprehensive bike network on streets throughout the city. Such changes would improve safety, increase the number of people riding bikes, which probably means more Red Bike usage, all while slowing down traffic just a tiny bit. Besides, even automobile drivers may appreciate not needing to directly interact with so many bicycles on the street.

  • Brian Boland

    Yes, yes, yes and YES! I hope someone on council can work toward this. Liberty street needs a diet as does Linn Street in the West End. I think they re-striped Bank street recently, but that road is also far too wide.

    • Great idea for Linn Street.

    • Aaron Watkins

      I almost got hit by someone on Bank St. at Freeman Ave. this morning because I was turning right and they decided to shoot up the bike lane to turn right. Unreal.

    • ED

      Even if you did this, does it substantially fix Liberty and Linn? Idk

    • Both Liberty and Linn need more than this. They need a road diet that would substantially reduce their width.

    • ED

      I can think of only one site on the south side of Liberty that has seen a new building in the 50 years since Liberty was widened.

    • While the Liberty Street road diet is dead, it seems like incremental changes are moving forward. For example, a median just popped up at Liberty and Main a couple weeks ago. And I’m told that the sketchy Moore St. terminus should be turning into a right-in, right-out intersection soon-ish.

  • SC

    Honestly, we need a LOT more of this. I’ve been biking more lately and it’s amazing how disjointed our bike paths are. You can be on one, then it stops, then further up it starts again, etc.

    As a bonus for car drivers, these roads would be repaved most likely when they are reconfigured.

  • Sue Plummer

    It seems like this was tried in Hyde Park, on Erie, (between Madison and the square, at least) several years ago. It was then re-painted due to neighbors complaining they wanted their car lanes back. How do you fight that mentality?

    • SC

      I’d say a comprehensive plan. I mean, we never made interstates go for miles, then stop them, then start them again after 10 miles. Nor should we do that with bike lanes.
      We also didn’t make them not link with anything. Right now, it’s such a hodge podge of here’s a bike lane, then 10 blocks down the road, there’s another one on a different street, etc. that I’m not surprised cyclists don’t use them all that often or that HP people wanted car lanes back since no one was out there.

    • The City of Cincinnati does in fact have a comprehensive plan for bicycle infrastructure improvements, but it’s not funded. The approach they take is to incorporate bike lanes into streets that are scheduled for repaving work. That’s why it is so hodge podge right now…they are only doing bits at a time.

    • SC

      Good to know Randy. Makes sense why places like MLK and Madison, etc. are so disjointed.

    • Jules Michael Rosen

      MLK will be even worse once the finish the “improvements” at I-71, as they are removing the eastbound bike lane.

    • I was informed that the bike lane along Erie Avenue was undone due to a loud vocal minority who complained that they were not involved in the decision making process that led to the bike lane going there in the first place. Pretty similar to the complaints after the fact from some motorists about the Central Parkway protected bike lane.

      In my opinion, the planning process is set up to be inclusive of all those who might be impacted by a project. If those people choose not to get involved, then it is frustrating for the others who were involved to see their work undone after the fact.

      In fact, the undoing of this specific project in Hyde Park actually created a more dangerous situation because you had a scrapped off bike lane marker and people didn’t know how to treat it. Could they park their cars there? Could they drive there? Could bicyclists bike there with comfort?

    • Sue Plummer

      The old not-in-my-back-yard mentality, or no participation till you do something I don’t like. Surprising for a neighborhood that hosts a huge annual bike race, and has two serious cycling shops, and I’m guessing many residents who get on their bikes on the weekends and evenings. Am I wrong?

    • ED

      Bike lanes don’t create or destroy a strong biking culture. Still see plenty of bikers on Erie and Observatory

    • ED

      The bike lane was a mess where Erie bends into East HP

    • ED

      HP has the strongest biking culture of any neighborhood in the city and they didn’t want bike lanes down Erie…

    • I disagree. Hyde Park has a strong recreational biking culture, but that’s where it stops. Generally speaking recreational/hobbyist riders don’t tend to care about bike lanes.

    • ED

      What’s the difference between commuter and recreational biking? An enthusiastic biker would do both and ride in the street.

    • Sue Plummer

      Yes, recreational or not, either one requires navigating city roadways. It’s difficult to understand how the desire for better biking access and delineation this doesn’t translate among recreational cyclists.

    • Many recreational bikers support bike trails, but they do not view biking as a legitimate method of transportation (i.e., a way to get to work, to run errands, etc.) so they do not care about bike lanes or other improvements that make streets safer for cyclists. Our mayor falls into this camp with his support for bike trails but hatred of bike lanes on city streets.

    • ED

      Despite Crancel, I don’t think there is actually a conflict between these two groups of bikers. Only serious bikers will use Erie regardless of bike lanes, less serious bikers will use side streets, both will use trails.